Bathroom Makeovers

The bathrooms in this house were the source of a lot of comedy. They are in need of updating sure, but seriously, the main bath goes way beyond that. I truly regret not entering them into some sort of contest for “worst bathrooms in need of updates”, before we began to tackle them.  Anyone who has seen them will be aghast that it took us over two years to get around to them.  We have one left to do, so here is the update on the first two.

We have settled on a few themes for our house.  One is wiggly lines, that is because we have decided to lean into the idea that this house may not have any straight lines, and also because we love the contrast between the tight linear look of modern clean lines and the organic feel of seeing that contrasted with some wiggles and swerves of against those clean edges.  The other is to add some bright bold coloured walls to the spaces.  We have painted one wall in some of the rooms as a surprise pop of colour; it is something you might not even notice until you are well into the rooms.

Pops of Colour
All Paint by Sherwin Williams

The downstairs bathroom is not exactly tragic, but it was a bit of a mishmash of design and sad at the very least.  For this bathroom, we painted most of the walls, Sherwin Williams Dorian Grey, which is around the rest of the house as well, and then we chose this gorgeous vibrant orange called, Determined as the feature colour and highlighted the corner wall.

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Downstairs Bath Before…
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…Downstairs Bath After.

 

 

We replaced the pedestal sink with a more practical slate coloured vanity and white sink and counter.  We took out the beige toilet and put in a one-piece modern one in white.  All of the fixtures are now brushed nickel in a much more contemporary style, as well as the mirror and light fixtures in glass and brushed nickel as well.

Overall it is a much more practical design, with a fresh contemporary update.

Upstairs is a whole other deal.  It is a huge bathroom with a weird layout.  The toilet is situated at an angle in the corner behind the door. The bath is in a box surround under the windows, with a thick aquamarine coloured carpeted step leading up to it.  The royal blue Formica countertop is on a long angled oak dresser with a tiny robin’s egg blue sink placed at another angle on the end of it.  Everything is a different shade and colour of blue; sky blue walls, royal blue counter, robins egg fixtures, cornflower blue flowers on the tiles.  To tie it all together, all fixtures are brass, there is oak trim around everything, including the toilet seat, and they put laminate tile on the floor and did the step in an oceanic blue plush.  Does it sound gorgeous?  Well, no.  It is not.

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Corner Throne Toilet Before…
Upstairs Bath
Catalogue of Blue Before…

We ran into the typical list of unforeseen issues with this reno as with the others we have done.  During the demo we realized we would need to move the plumbing in order to update the tub.  This meant opening up the floor, where we found the angle of the pipes did not allow for the drain to flow properly from where it is currently at.  We called a plumber who found a solution relatively easily but as with all solutions, you can only have two of the three desires.  We want it to be inexpensive, done fast and done well… so since we had a way to do it well, and fast we would need to pay through the nose.  Instead, we switched to good and slow which made it relatively affordable, but it was definitely not ready for when our next round of guests arrived.

 

We also found a wasps nest farm under the flooring and had to investigate the access and seal that up for the future.  These creatures are industrious.  They do beautiful work, but I would really rather they stay out of our joists!

 

The next hurdle was re-drywalling where the tub surround and tiled wall came half-way up the walls under the window.  Robert handled that incredibly well… I always panic if the drywall is not going to be able to be seamed beautifully, but he really made it work.

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Replacing the destroyed drywall.
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New Paint

The floor is now a dark grey porcelain tile with darker grout laid out at an angle.  This was Robert’s first tile job and he researched it like it was a university degree in tile laying.  He did a brilliant job, it is super solid, flat and professional looking.  There are a few spots where we might do things differently, but those are the lessons you cant learn without attempting a DIY, and really it is quite hidden, so not a big deal.

 

The new white contemporary style tub, toilet, sink and counter create a really clean look.  We bought the vanity we wanted and changed the stainless handles to match the other fixtures, lighting, mirrors, taps, towel rods and such to a brushed nickel and a more contemporary and curved design which finishes it off nicely.

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Moen Brushed Nickel 4 piece Icon Faucet
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New Vanity, Mirror and Faucet
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One Piece Low Flo American Standard Toilet

We replaced all of the trim with a wider MDF product to make it more contemporary and painted it all white. The highlight wall in this bath is mythical purple, and the rest of the bath is also the Dorian grey from the darker of the two around the rest of the house reno. There is a huge wall in this bath so we are looking for something to use for storage that will fit nicely into this space.  Overall it is now a fresh, clean, contemporary space with significantly fewer ridiculous details to ponder!

Upstairs Tub and Vanity
After…
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If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, make ’em welcome.

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Another spring on this island and it has been glorious.  Not the weather, although I do prefer it to anything else I see happening in Canada, it is still chilly and damp.  The colours are bright and bold and blooms are bold on the emerging bright green which can make up for anything else weather wise.  We are busy renovating so I will post those updates soon.  We have redesigned the yard as well and we are continuously exploring the city for beautiful photographic experiences with the puppies.

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This spring we have received some unexpected visitors.  They have come to seek refuge in the upper siding on the East side of our house.  First, they tapped out one hole, then two, we filled them with expanding foam insulation, but another hole appeared right beside those.  In order for these visitors to make these holes, an unreasonable amount of jackhammer pecking needs to happen.  This seems to begin primarily at sunrise, and again at sunset.  Because we live in Canada, that sunrise time has been getting earlier and earlier with each passing day.

These little visitors have been identified as Northern Flickers.  They are a type of woodpecker.  They like to tap to attract a mate and will also make huge holes in hopes of having her stick around to nest and raise babes.

There are a few deterrents to try in order to scare away these flickers before they nest.  They are a protected species here in BC so they can not be harmed.  We did not hesitate to frighten them away though.  The first thing we tried was hanging up shiny objects which they apparently hate.  Then they grow to tolerate the flashy decor and finally completely embrace and or ignore it!  So next, we tried tapping back.  The wall they chose is the outside wall of our bedroom of course, and as I mentioned before, it is an early morning jackhammer like wake up call.  Every. Single. Morning.  So similar to when your infant wakes in the early hours, Robert and I take turns/argue about getting up and tapping/banging back on the other side of the wall.  This banging, coupled with popping our heads out the window, seemed to get them to fly off.  Not long after though, they come back, and try the routine again, and again, and again… ok… so next.  After the bird gets through the siding they start pulling out the insulation and throwing it all into the wind, so not only did we have 4-inch holes in the siding, but now our yard is littered with insulation and wood chips.  At this point, we tried throwing things at them and yelling, “Get out of here you stinking homewreckers!”  This is the face we got for that effort.  Sort of a hmm, these people might be annoying if we are living here, but no thoughts of a; hey we should live somewhere else, sort of vibe.

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At this point, we started doing a more expansive research project and found out that although some of these deterrents have worked for people who initially attract flickers, more often than not they have a coincidental association to the birds leaving and choosing another spot.

The only article that seemed to mention they stopped the destruction of the property came from a Texas University which went with an accommodating approach.  Instead of attempting to rid themselves of the woodpeckers, they built them a home and attached it to the building they were poking holes in.  The woodpeckers moved right in and stopped pecking large holes in the building.

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If you can not beat them, join them!  So we followed suit.  First, we cleaned up the siding where we had filled holes with foam and covered the holes with a piece of flashing.  The flicker woodpeckers were NOT happy about that, and they started immediately to find a new spot to drill.

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Meanwhile, we made them a new house.  In this case, the we, is Robert.  I took on the supervisor role.  I’m pretty sure it is the first thing he’s ever built, outside of woodworking in Jr. High, so it was pretty interesting to watch the process unfold.  I think he’s deciding to work on gaining some skills for the post-apocalypse were possibly facing… so building stuff out of scraps to live in might come in handy?  He did a great job, and in a few hours, our new outdoor guest room for flickers was available.

The next morning, sunrise… we hear the tapping.  I snuck downstairs to see where they were settling in, and boom da bing da bang, right on the new digs.  Fabulous.  So.  We still have the tapping and the birds moving in, but they are no longer wrecking the house and   I am hopeful we might see some baby flickers in the not so distant future!

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Peek… there he is making a bunch of noise.

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Here he is chucking out the wood chips and saw dust we put into the new house.

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He is a pretty handsome fellow.  I am sure some lovely mama bird will be pretty stoked to find herself nesting with some eggs in the house that Robert built on the side of our little dream space.

I will keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Vivid’ Photography Project

This is a project I just completed for a class I am taking at the University of Victoria.  The final critique was this week, so I thought I would share it with you all.

 

VIVID / KAREN MITCHELL

 I produce joyful photographs to combat the darker thoughts that can invade my mind. I work to overcome the undesired stress by confronting it with an opposing onslaught of mindful, grounding, vibrant bursts of joyful imagery.

VIVID consists of 12 color photographs, images of beautifully lit natural elements. They are separated into individual representations of defined, obvious colours. Each image is a spark which has grabbed my attention away from a numb mental state, and realigned my thoughts to a brighter, clearer more powerful moment. I have approached photographs in terms of nature and landscape partly due to the practical aspects. Combatting mental illness also depends on leaving my house. Seeking fresh air, the sunshine, exercise and very literal changes of scenery, turns exploring and recording, into a creative therapy.

This series deals with meditation, organized attention to various colour details, and a focused capture.   I have interpreted each image to represent only one colour; as a blatant burst, they also work as a moment of joy. Colours are encouraged, expanded, and expressed as opportunities for the viewer to also access some memories of hopefulness through beauty.

VIVID- producing powerful feelings or strong, clear images in the mind.

 

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Version 2

 

02Orange

 

03Yellow

 

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Version 2

 

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11 Violet

 

07Pink

 

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12Black

 

Living Room

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Living Room

I love sitting rooms.  I adore the sacred quiet space of a room designated to be for conversations, or reading, and events where we are creating holiday memories.  In my childhood, for our family, the living-room was this kind of space.  Other families had really exquisite living/sitting rooms with fancy furnishings, “no eating” rules, and layered in decor which was almost all delicate, and breakable, and off limits.  These off-limits spaces were not something I ever wanted to recreate for our family.  I want our house to be accessible and welcoming and fun for us, for our children, family and guests.  I don’t want this room to be for watching TV, screen time, or chilling straight out of the pool though, so something in between.

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Before

When we moved in, this space was really unappealing to me.  There was an outdated sculpted grey carpet, stained any number of ways, filthy with time and wear.  One wall was painted hot pink the others were a blue grey… each pulled together with brass fixtures and tiny trim.  There was a featured red brick fireplace and the most ridiculous mantle.  They had somehow acquired a mantle piece too short for the fireplace, the bottom of it is about 4 inches short of the width and the top was the exact length of the bricks.  Their solution?  Turn it upside down of course!  Yep.  These guys are all class and problem solving geniuses.  Insert eye roll judgemental gesture with a huge sigh here.

 

In stages we started to evolve this room from the very first day.

First… say NO to this carpet.  I was seriously afraid of catching something nasty from it, even when ripping it out, but I definitely didn’t want it in the house a second longer than necessary so, up it came, filthy and gross underlay and all right into the empty moving truck and to the dump.

Change out the electric heaters, light switches, fixtures and eventually the baseboards.

We painted the walls the same grey colour as the rest of the house in effort to whitewash the space, again so I could think… and we could make other decisions about colour later once we had lived in the space.  Then we did that.  We lived with plywood flooring, and an empty room for months.  Deciding how we wanted the space to look and feel and whether to keep it open or divide it into an office or expand the kitchen?

Once we realized we were going to have 8 overnight guests over 2 weeks at Christmas.  With so many of us, we thought it would be super advantageous to have this room and the dining room ready so we could use the space effectively.  That lit a fire under us to get it done.  We didn’t have a stitch of furniture to use in this space and starting from scratch was really fun.  A big limitation we had was everything getting in place in time for our family memebers who were all coming to stay.  We then had to stay within deliver deadlines and so on with our choices.

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After

 

The fireplace was not where we wanted the room to stand out colour wise, so I chose a colour in the same pallet a few shades darker and one of our daughters painted over the red brick.  On the cover, we used barbecue paint, as it withstands heat, and covered over the original brass with black.

As we did with the bench in the hall (see my entryway blog post) we were excited to make a mantle using a piece of live edge maple from Westwind Mills in Sidney.  We chose the piece from their massive selection of slabs, they cut it to size, removed the bark and sanded and oiled it to this state.  To mount it, we used a ridiculous amount of professional glue between the bricks and the mantle, then set up an elaborate system of 2x4s to hold it up and cement blocks to weigh it down until it set.

 

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Maple Slabs from Westward Mills

We wanted a modern eclectic feel to the room, something inviting and inspired, clean lines but not cold. We finished the floor, (see my previous blog entry), in a dark stain, and continued with a grey, caramel and turquoise theme throughout.

We love the way our existing artwork fit into this space, one of our most exciting moments was hanging the giant Edward Gilliam painting we bought in Mexico and had framed for this space.  We are hosting the Arvid Wangen painting, above the fireplace.

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Edward Gilliam Painting

We mixed and matched from various stores to find pieces to work in the space.  This rug was my favourite find, an abstract wool creation that ties everything together.

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Abstract Wool Rug

We found a few beautiful tables at the Muse and Merchant store in Langford, our favourite is the huge slate slab coffee table, and the Magnolia nesting tables.

We still need more lighting and eventually, we will change out the window coverings… but it was a great space for hosting Christmas and it’s been a perfect quiet spot to chill out together since then as well.

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The Family in the Living Room, Christmas Morning 2015
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Living Room

 

Welcome to Our Front Entrance

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Welcome!

“Welcome” to our ongoing project, “Home”.

In order to create an inviting feel to our entrance we had to overcome a few of the inherent bizarre considerations here in the original space.  There is a lot of room in this space and the features we were left with were, the light sconces and this giant red brick planter, with the vacu- flo running through it, both of which were not only useless and dated, but conversation pieces for conversations we didn’t want to have.

To start, as with the other rooms, we replaced the electric heaters with newer more energy efficient models which also took up less space.  The switches on the walls were replaced and the light sconces updated to be less offensive to people in 2016.

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To tackle the brick planter took a lot more thought.  Removing it would be the obvious answer, but the flooring has been installed around it and would need to be replaced once we hauled out the brick.  Because we are waiting to install new flooring until we are sure of the layout we want in the house, we needed something we loved, something which would put this space to good use, without ripping out the brick entirely, or something which covered the hole, which would be made, when we ripped it out.

 

 

Here is our solution.
A bench.

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We saw this bench at a juice bar in Vancouver and loved the idea of the rustic feel of the live edge wood with the more modern painted brick and other concrete features we had planned for this space

 

The planter height was too extreme for most people to sit, so the first job was to take off the first few layers of bricks, so the bench seat would be at a comfortable height.  This we did with a chisel and chipped through the mortar until the brick was loose and just lifted it off.

Robert then moved the plugs which were originally inside the planter; yep, inside the planter.  He moved them further up the wall, to a more advantageous accessible place.  We removed the vacu-flo plug from the front of the brick, and filled the hole with one of the bricks we had removed.  We patched and smoothed the wall, painted it to blend in where the new paint met the new reno.

We also painted the brick a few shades darker than the wall to highlight it, and create a heavier look, grounding the space.

Then the fun part!  We found a mill in Sidney, Westward Hardwood, www.westwindhardwood.com,  which sells live edge wood slabs to be used for cutting boards,furniture, counters, fireplace mantels, and in our case also, bench seats.

We spent time there going through all of the different options in the warehouse until we found the perfect piece for our project and they cut the less desired edge to meet our specifications, leaving the other a live edge, stripped of bark.  It was sanded and oiled and we picked it up in pieces for us to assemble at home.

No problem.  Ha!  Theories are always so different, than reality.

It took us a long time and several competent carpenters before our friend and a carpenter, builder, Jasmin finally visited and worked with us to finish getting it even and settled into place.  The right angle was very difficult to achieve and have the piece also sit flush with the floor.  A lot of chiseling and manipulation had to go in behind the scenes under the bench to achieve flush results.

We are so happy with the seat, the storage space and the look of it as you walk into our house.

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Next we found a carpet at Jordan’s, which has an incredible selection and we had purchased some of our other furniture there of late, so we could coordinate easily.  At Homesense we were happy to find several mirrors which we debated over a while before finding a new home for one,  At Muse and Merchant we sourced an entrance table in concrete and solid wood slabs which really anchored the space and then finally, a space for  storing shoes at the door as they were tending to pile there anyway.

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It took us a long time to get around to installing the baseboards, which Jasmin made short work of as well.  The originals you can see in any of the before pictures were 1/4 inch thick flat and 1 1/2 inches high.  I think they were originally door jam dividers, but we did see them in Home Depot in the bargain offerings so that makes sense, as we have come to believe that was the previous home owners motto.  “We found it in the bargain bin, so we featured it in our house.”  These are a nice 5″ with subtle detailing and feel much more befitting the height of the walls and the style of the house.

We are considering following the maple wood through to the handrails up the stairway and in the rail above, but we haven’t made final decisions as to how we want to treat those spaces, so we won’t invest in those quite yet.

For now we are happy to have a place to sit to put on our shoes, a carpet to welcome guests and keep our puppies in a restful state at the door, and a welcoming area at the front door. Thank you for visiting.  All the best until next time.

 

Our OSB Floor Experiment

One of the things really obnoxious about this house is the living room dining room space. We have a plan for the final renovation to create an office or a den and a long kitchen with a huge island in this room. We don’t want to spend the necessary cash on that reno right now though, so we thought we would just sort of do it in stages or something.

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Christmas.

Now this is a holiday where for some reason I get all worked up. Family time, gifting, connecting, eating butter, perfection… some of those reasons, and many more.  This year I really wanted to create home for everyone to come visit us here on the island and hang out in the house but there was really not enough spaces for everyone to comfortably be together, and also be apart enough, to enjoy ourselves for 10 days.

So, back to this room… the floor, the walls, the lights, the mantel are all so scary 80s bad. The first days we were here I personally heaved out the sculptured pink, and also grey with dirt and whatever else, carpeting and underlay so; we have been living on a plywood floor, basically since day one. After Robert injured his foot, my mother in law and my mother both sat on the floor and pulled every staple out by hand. Thousands of them so we wouldn’t hurt ourselves walking around on it.

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Before…

This seemed like a living space we could really enjoy with relatively little effort, so before we decide on our final renovation project; we went to work thinking of ways to make it usable.  Our limitations were basically what we could get done in 6 weeks… ’cause, Christmas.

We joked about just painting the floor for awhile, and then staining and varnishing the plywood but the level of the floor was too low and didn’t match with the tile, and we thought it would be lazy. Carpeting, even the crap stuff was going to run too expensive, and then there would be carpet in there again… and dogs… so, no.

Somewhere along the way,  I went to a new yoga class space, and they had these OSB floors with something like resin on the top of a dark stain, they were great and looked amazing. I took the idea back to Robert and we started researching.  Here is what we came up with.

Step One: Buy OSB with no stamps or paint and one finished side.

Step Two: Nope. There is no such thing, so you must buy OSB with rough sides and covered in an impenetrable coating, stamped continuously with the company name with either green or red seeping into the cracks. Done.

Step Three: Hire someone to cut and lay the floor down, fill the cracks and sand off the stamps paint and coating. This insures you don’t just have a pile of OSB in your living room when your guests arrive the following month. Good idea.

 

Step Four: Stain the floor. There are a million arguments and rational discussions to have before you actually choose the colour, but if you buy a few samples of the stain, get them onto a spare piece of OSB and then verathane them you will have an idea what to argue about.  During this stage tell NO ONE in the trades what you are doing… they will all look at you funny, roll their eyes, doubt you out loud right there to your face… share all of their concern, ask others to also share their particular concerns… its just a bit of a time waster to have to see your counsellor during this time so, unless you have other things to discuss with the counsellor, shhhhh.

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Step Five: Apply the stain to the actual floor and wonder repeatedly why you thought you were qualified to do this project. Don’t call the guy who installed the floor because he will laugh at you so hard, it’s not worth it. Just keep staining and hope the imperfections are reduced. Assure yourself that OSB is inherently flawed, it’s not your fault, it is just the nature of the product to look sort of urban industrial and wonk.

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Step Six: Repeat step five like four more times.

Step Seven: Verathane with mental state much like step five and Six.

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First coats of stain on it…

Step Eight: Marvel at your new floor.

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Done, 3 coats…

The room is so improved by this makeshift flooring, it is super great. Of course it is not completed yet, we are hoping to pull it together this weekend, we have ordered furniture a new mantel, area carpets and such and there are baseboards in the garage beside the miter saw… they haven’t done anything yet, but I am positive we will see something soon.  I will show it in the next blog.

In the meantime, we’ll have 10 people here at Christmas so hopefully, we will enjoy one another’s company, have some fun, sleep well and be set for the New Year. We wish the same to you and whatever Holiday shinanigans you come up with!

Water Ways

DSC_5925It has been such a long time since my last post… there has been a lot going on. So a bit of an update is in order. Our house continues to be a wonder of shocking discoveries, somehow even the things not at all on our radar initially, have become issues with urgent or at least niggling consequence. I could do an entire post about those… maybe in a bit?

Where have we got to since I last posted?  Not far my friends, not far. We seem to be in analysis mode. Living in our space, noticing when the sun comes in, where it comes in, for how long it stays, and the effects of it coming in here or there… we are taking note, which side of the kitchen or laundry room we naturally go to throw something out, where we need to have surfaces to put our belongings, and how to hang out together and then effectively spend time apart.  We are thinking about which things bug us too much to put on hold and which we can live with a lot longer.

IMG_6610The main thing, because it has been hot, and summer and we needed to be outside as much as possible, was to get the yard and the deck organized! Robert found we have an underground
sprinkler system and began mapping that out. There are sprinklers, which will pop out of the lawn, burst open in the gardens, shoot water in a ring around the grass, but when they are off, they are really hidden and unnoticeable for the most part. They are each on a timer, and you can set them for various times throughout the week, the day, the hour… which ever way you would prefer them to behave. The head on each sprinkler determines the direction and amount of the spray as well as whether it will rotate, or have various pressure expressions. It’s really a great invention, all of the nuances kept Robert totally enthralled for a week. I believe his quoteIMG_6614 is that it is “the best invention ever.”
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First, for a bit of treasure hunting fun, there is a map that shows where the various regions are in the yad… it shows how many sprinklers there should be, and what they should be doing.  This is all controlled at a timer panel on the house with various dials and switches, all completely right up any engineers alley!  As we went through the map, we would confirm the count, and verify in each region, whether every sprinkler was working or not etc.… at one point we had to run out to meet the bus and retrieve a visitor, but were waiting for the next switch in the cycle to come on before we left;
so we were standing sort of mysteriously watching our lawn in anticipation from the driveway, so of course the neighbours wander over to check on us and confirm we most deservedly can claim their “these guys are so lost” label. Inevitably 3 of the sprinklers do not emerge due to the incredibly neglected yard maintenance over the years, (I can only assume so, and lay blame on the past owners, due to the consistent messages from this house “this dwelling has been neglected”); so due to that
neglect, these heads are buried beneath the lawn thatch!

OIMG_6613f course the neighbour “expert” has an immediate plan of assessing their location and proceeds to show us how to detect the vibration of the flow of water, then using a carpet knife, slice off the layer of sod to reveal the head and pry it up through the interwoven blades to freely saturate the entire scope of its labeled duties. Success! Neighbourly high fives all round, and we can continue on our way.

IMG_6612IMG_6611In the back garden, Robert found one of the sprinkler heads had been dislocated from its source and this had shut down the pressure normally allowing for flow through to the others in the line, so the entire stretch of “5b” was inoperable. After a bit of research he was able to successfully crazy glue a new attachment, and replace the sprinkler head, which allowed for a whole section to be reactivated… hydration for all!

All this to say, immediately after this discovery of “the best invention ever” we, as with most of residents of BC, in Saanich have been put on a fairly strict water restriction process to save water on the island. The temperature was 30+ for over 3 weeks and the forest fires have been rampantly blazing out of control… so we’re restricted to no fires, and conserve water.  A quick adjustment of the scheduled water release times though, and we’re all set for the restricted usage.

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We then bought some fun outdoor furniture to utilize the hanging out space on the sad, sorry, decomposing deck, a table, chairs, umbrella, some comfy furniture for the multi purpose yoga deck… a few drying off anti gravity chairs for beside the pool access… it’s looking up out there. If you want to come check it out, we’re ready for hosting.  I can prepare beverages!

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